A bilateral trade agreement with the US would become difficult to navigate if the Government pushes ahead with its Withdrawal Agreement, writes John Wilkes.
Tarriff-free trade with the UK was very appealing to US farmers, according to David Salmonsen, Senior Director Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The US wants UK/EU separation but it will have limited options for negotiation on future trade initiatives with the UK if the UK remains tied to existing EU agricultural production standards.
Mr Salmonsen said: “The US administration thought that going forward this [Brexit] was the chance for something new, but if EU 2.0 now goes ahead, who knows.”
However, he acknowledged the proximity of the UK and EU and long-established trade relations as a reason to continue some form of a customs arrangement, comparing it to US trade with Canada and Mexico.
“It is a nice thing to separate, but you cannot change your geography. You are only 19 miles from Europe, your biggest market. You are even joined by a tunnel.”
He said there had been a collective sigh of relief from US agriculture when direct trade was preserved in the recent USMCA or NAFTA 2.0 trade agreement.
But he believed the Trump administration would pursue UK access regardless.
“The US will push. This administration has a pretty aggressive trade agenda.”
The US showed its intent for trade talks when Robert Lighthizer, US Trade Representative gave a 90-day Trade Promotion Authority notice to Congress on October 16.
In a no-deal scenario, the US could pursue a bilateral third country agreement with the UK immediately.
It comes after the industry hit back at comments from ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis saying a trade deal would be enormously beneficial to US farmers.
Vicki Herd, food and farming campaign co-ordinator at Sustain, said it was an outrage he was so desperate for a hard Brexit, he would ‘throw hardworking UK farmers under a bus’.
She added a recent IPPR poll had found 82 per cent of the UK public wanted to keep standards as they are, not lower them to secure a US trade deal, showing he was ‘out of step with the British public’.